A few weeks ago, I participated in a Joy workshop. It was exactly what a full-time mom (or dad) needs heading into the holiday season.

The gathering started with a meet and greet cocktail hour on Friday evening and then, over two days, became a thoughtful consideration of:

  • what zaps us of joy?
  • are we choosing emotions other than joy?
  • how to connect with our own joy
  • rituals for creating and keeping joy

There was conversation, teachings, things to read, skill drills, time for journaling, laughing, crying; it was deep and messy and wonderful all at one time. Most importantly, it was a reminder of how and why we lose our joy and what it takes to find it again. Woven into the workshop was yoga, delicious food, and the chance to meet like-minded women who want to connect with themselves and each other.


What came up for me during the workshop was the profound loss I have felt the last eight years since my mother and grandmother passed away. My life changed instantly with their passings. My mother’s sudden death was particularly hard. She and I were not close, but we loved one another. When she died, I truly did not know what hit me. More importantly, I did not know how to grieve.


My grandmother’s passing was quite different. Her dying took place over many months. We were close and her slow exit from this life brought us closer. I am incredibly thankful for the time we had together and for the wisdom and guidance she shared with me in her life. With her last breath, she was teaching me something.

Two back-to-back deaths however, left me lost…and I didn’t even know it. What I realise now is that I was living in a haze colored by loss. I compare myself, pre and post their deaths, to being severely concussed. In my sorrow, I walked through life unable to feel, think, participate or do anything fully. That phrase “the lights are on but nobody is home” says it all. In a textural point of view, it felt like I was walking in a sticky web and could not get free.

I am a fighter, so to be sure, and I struggled against the darkness but it always pushed back hard.


Slowly, the stickiness of loss has lifted. Last year I noticed that I was finally coming back to myself. I was feeling joy again. In a moment of absolute “what the heck happened to me”, I saw a therapist who explained that it can take one to three years to fully process a loss. Two losses, one right after the other, may take twice as long or longer. And grief comes in waves…you’re fine and then you’re not…you’re fine again and then you’re not…again.

I have grieved for my beloved mother, grandmother and myself. I include myself because I have lost precious momentum and time: eight years to be exact. I forgive myself for not being able to see my way clearly.

Sadly, I acknowledge that I can’t get back those years. I can’t change what I did or didn’t do…did or did not say. I can only be aware of what happened, love myself, acknowledge my pain, and the hurt my emotional absence may have created in other people’s lives, and move forward.


This past year, my intention has been “Love”…love of self, love of others, love of work, love of learning and travel and so much more. Love and time have brought me back to myself…brought me back to today. And the Joy workshop I did last weekend helped me to look at what has been holding me back from having as much joy as I had before my mother and grandmother died. That information I’ll save for another blog post!

When I woke up this morning the phrase “Today, I Begin Anew” popped into my mind. I wrote it down on a sticky note and put it on my mirror as a reminder of the new awakening I feel for my beautiful, complicated, messy life.

This is my journey. It is perfectly imperfect.

Maybe God, the Universe, the Powers that Be are molding me for something I do not yet know. Loss is part of being “molded”. And, with grace, I am open to the possibilities of the journey. So, today, I begin anew. Perhaps this post will help you in any loss you are experiencing. Today, please know that you are not alone.



Irish Brown Bread Cooling on Rack

Today’s blog post is short and sweet and at the request of In an Irish Home reader Jackie Shaw. Jackie, very kindly, reminded me that I had not yet posted a recipe for Irish Multi-Seed Brown Bread. Thanks, Jackie, and my apologies for the three-year delay!

This bread is so easy to make. Pop a few ingredient into a large mixing bowl.

Stir well, and whosh it into the oven.

Bada bing, bada boom and your done. There is no rising time required.

I know what it means to feel life is too busy to make homemade bread, but I can honestly say that everyone has time to make this. For me, it was a wonderful way to spend time with my young children {they loved mixing the ingredients by hand}. Now that the kids are teenagers, making this bread has become a weekly meditative ritual.

Three slices of homemade Irish Brown BreadAs a side to homemade soup or as a quick breakfast topped with jam, sliced tomatoes, cheese or whatever you prefer, it is absolutely healthy and delicious.

~ XoK

Multi-Seed Irish Brown Bread

Makes 1 Loaf


200g/6oz/1-½cup self-raising flour

300g/11oz/2-¼cup extra-coarse brown flour

8g/.3oz/3 tablespoons bran

16g/.6oz/2 tablespoons wheat germ

2 heaped teaspoons baking powder

1 level teaspoon salt

106g/3.7oz/½cup, heaped, mixed seeds (sunflower, poppy, sesame, pumpkin oat groats), toasted

2 teaspoons treacle (optional)

600-900ml buttermilk


1. Pre-heat oven to 230ºC/450ºF. Lightly oil all sides of a loaf tin, line with a sheet of parchment paper, and set aside.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.

3. Into the well, add the treacle (optional) and half the buttermilk. Stir well. Continue to add small amounts of buttermilk until you have a moist, but not sloppy, mixture.

4. Put the mixture into prepared loaf tin and bake for twenty minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 150ºC/300ºF and bake for an hour.

5. Ease bread from loaf tin (you may need a knife to do this) and peel off the parchment paper. Carefully turn the loaf over (you may need a tea towel or oven mits to do this as the bread is very hot) and tap the underside of the loaf to listen for a hollow sound. A hollow sound means the bread is fully cooked. If the loaf does not sound hollow, return it to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Do not put it back into the loaf tin, just put it right-side up, directly on the shelf in the oven.

6. When bread is fully baked, cool on a wire rack. Slice as needed. Store in a container, in a cupboard. Will last about one week.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* My mixed seed mixture is as follows: 50g/3 tablespoons oat groats, 38g/3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, 1 10g/tablespoon poppy seeds, and 10gm/1 tablespoon sesame seed. I popped them into a dry sauté pan and lightly toast the seeds before adding them to the bread recipe above. If you are a real time-saver, you can always double or triple this mixture and store in an airtight container for future use.

** Soup recipes that go beautifully with this recipe include Roast Carrot and Cumin, Myrtle’s Mushroom, Autumn Vegetable, Irish Leak and Potato, and Pea and Mint.

*** What are Oat Groats? Following are a few links for those who want to know more than a kernel of truth! The Spruce Eats  and Food52.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

The world is feeling so polar these days and with our eldest daughter way over on the west coast of America on her own…it feels a little bit unsafe to this mama…though I know, in reality…if I take a deep breath…it actually isn’t.

Regardless of where home is, what anyone does for a living, or what our political leanings are, I hope you/me/we, will make more time to create or pass on a tiny bit more gentleness, patience, and love. It is, after all, up to us to how we interact with one another. If someone treats you poorly today, let me be the first to say I am sorry for the hurt. It’s tough out there…so many demands…so much negativity…everyone in a rush…shouting…honking…bustling…doing…making noise. It’s exhausting and grating on our central nervous systems and hearts.

The world is not meant to be what it feels like it is becoming…what it has been for a while now. I’m a hopeless romantic, so with Wonder Woman in mind, I am shouting out today: “ONLY LOVE CAN SAVE THE WORLD”. And, if that doesn’t work…maybe biscuits {cookies} will help.

Which brings me to today’s post for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. These tasty little treats are perfect this time of year.

Bowl of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

The pumpkin and chocolate flavours work really well together {wouldn’t it be nice if we could say the same about American politicians ~ cheap shot, I know!}.

Drop scoop pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Unlike many biscuits, these are cake-like and chewy. They are incredibly satisfying with a good mug of tea in the morning.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies on a baking tray

One thing to note, they do not freeze well…nor does the dough refrigerate well. So, when you make them…you have to make them all. Depending on what size spoon or dough scoop you use, the recipe yields between 3-5 dozen cookies.

Tray of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Which is why I sent a batch of them to my daughter and her lovely new roommate at college. Here’s how I packed them up.

How to send homemade cookies in the mail

I packaged them in cling film (plastic wrap) and placed each cookie back-to-back.

Homemade card from fall printable

I tried to find an “Autumn is in the Air” printable…but this one was so adorable!

red, yellow, green autumn leaves

The autumn leaves in our garden are so beautiful this time of year.

Sending cookies in the mail

Some tissue paper, ribbon, and a few stickers and it’s ready for shipping!

You can buy American canned pumpkin in Dublin at Candy Lab in Temple Bar or  Fallon and Byrne. Sometimes, I have also seen it at Avoca in Kilmaconogue and at Cavistons in Glasthule…but this is hit and miss. I’m a Dublin girl, so I apologise for not being able to speak for the rest of the country. Happy Autumn!

~ XoK

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Makes 3-5 Dozen


½ cup/4oz vegetable oil

1 cup/8.3oz/236g pumpkin puree

1 cup/198g/7oz sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon bread soda (baking soda)

1 teaspoon milk

2 teaspoons mixed spice (pumpkin spice)

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup/142g/5oz whole wheat flour

1 cup/142g/5oz self-raising flour (all purpose flour)

2 cups/400g/14oz chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Spray baking sheets with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper or silpat sheets.

2. In a bowl, combine oil, pumpkin, sugar, egg, and vanilla.

3. In another bowl, stir baking soda and milk well. Add to the pumpkin mixture.

4. In a third bowl, stir mixed spice, baking powder, salt, and flour well. Add to pumpkin mixture.

5. Fold in the chocolate chips and leave batter to rest for 15 minutes.

6. Using a scoop, place batter on a baking sheet, approximately 2-inches apart, and bake for 9-12 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned.

7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the biscuits rest for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cookies with a spatula and transfer to a wire rack to fully cool.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* These websites were particularly helpful in figuring out the best way to pack the cookies for shipping: Land-O-Lakes; Kitchn;  Sally’s Baking Addiction;

** Here is the link for the printable I used, from On Sutton Place, to make the card.

*** If you can’t find the canned pumpkin puree in Ireland, here is a recipe from Alton Brown over at the Food Network. You can watch a video of the process too.

Room to Grow

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Good morning and happy Monday! I know it’s been a little quiet around here lately. I took the last few months off to spend with my sweet family…especially my eldest daughter {photo above}, who graduated from secondary school in June and then recently left for a college on the west coast of America.

As you can imagine, the past few months have been filled with lots of emotion in our Irish home…and by that I mean way more than would normally be the case with one mother and two teenage daughters living in the same house!

With each passing day, we held on to one another a little bit tighter and squeezed as much fun out of life as we could. Here are a few snapshots of our recent memories; I’ll write about some of them in greater depth in the coming weeks.

First up, for mid-term break, we flew to Hawaii with dear friends to soak up some sunshine. This was our first trip to Kaua’i. The weather wasn’t much better than it was back in Ireland at the time, but we loved the relaxed feel of this gorgeous island.

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Then there was a sweet event at which my husband walked our daughter “down the aisle” so to speak. Oh my goodness…it was a vision of what her final “white dress” occasion might be like!

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Next up, a girls trip to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. If you haven’t visited Moab, do consider it for your bucket-list. From Ireland there is no direct flight to Salt Lake City, but don’t let that stop you. Utah has a number of state and national parks that are amazing {and if you are going that far, I suggest you check out Colorado too}. The Delicate Arch, under which we are standing, is an 18-meter, 60-foot-tall, freestanding natural arch. Hiking out to this point at sunset was just one of the highlights of this quick girls trip.

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Then there was a best-friend graduation trip to Rome. How cute are these two? They’ve been friends for twelve years!

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And the Debs…!

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And, finally, before we knew it…it was time to say goodbye.

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Letting go of this sweet girl wasn’t incredibly hard…it was just incredible AND hard. She was ready for her next adventure and we are happy she has more room to grow.

Through the tears and the hugs and the laughter and the heart-ache, we’ve had an amazing couple of months. Now each of us is adjusting to our “new normal”.

I’ll end today’s post with some wisdom passed along from both my grandmother and my mother-in-law. Their advice has served me well recently. Maybe they will be helpful to you too either now or some day. From Mama I learned, “a mother’s job is to let her children go”. Spoken like a true Irish mammy. From Gma El, I learned, “You GO Girl!

~ XoK

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* We love Utah as a destination: it’s clean, safe, and full of outdoor activities. Click here to go to the Visit Utah website.

** Moab, Utah is home to two national parks: Arches and Canyonlands. Click here to jump to Visit Moab’s official website

*** Go Hawaii’s official website was really helpful to us as we planned our holiday.

**** Did you see the gorgeous meringue cake I baked for my youngest daughter’s birthday party? You can learn to make it here.

***** And last, but not least, if you’re considering a holiday to Rome, check out Rome’s official website here.

Meringue Layered Cake with Whipped Cream and Mixed Berries

In our Irish home there’s only one type of cake that’s served at birthday celebrations:  meringue. Serve it “traditional-style” and you’re rolling the meringue around a luscious layer of cream and berries…serve it “contemporary-style” and you’re sandwiching mixed berries and cream between layers of crisp meringue. Either way, this cake is always delicious and always a show-stopper.

One point to clarify…for anyone that’s interested…is this: a meringue is not a pavlova. There is a difference. After hotly debating this with someone recently, I did some research. Here are the facts:

A meringue is a simple and pure mixture of whisked egg whites and sugar. A crisp meringue is most usually a French meringue, where the egg whites are whisked and then caster sugar is incorporated. These meringues are baked at a low heat for a long period of time, whereby they are effectively “dried out” rather than “cooked”. A perfect Irish meringue is crisp on the outside, yet not as crisp as a French meringue, and chewy in the middle.

A pavlova, on the other hand, is a type of meringue, especially noted for its marshmallow-like centre. It is made with the addition of cornflour {cornstarch} and, frequently, vinegar.

In our home, meringue cake {roulade or layered} is nearly always made with raspberries, blackberries and strawberries…but it would be glorious with homemade lemon curd or, given the season that’s about to be, homemade wild elderberry curd! In the summer months, I am partial to substituting kiwi, pineapple and bananas for the usual berries…but my family disagree…they always prefer berries to anything else.

Whatever way you make it, I think you’re going to  this recipe!

~ XoK

Meringue Layer Cake

Serves 8


6 large egg whites

12oz sugar {caster}

500ml cream, whipped

1kilo mixed fruit, cut into bite-size pieces

Directions for Making Meringue

1. Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F. Line three baking trays with parchment paper and, using a pencil, draw one circle, 20cm/8-inch, on each piece of parchment paper. {I used a cake tin for this.} Flip the parchment paper over so the pencil circle is facing down towards the baking tray.

2. Beat the egg whites and half the sugar using an electric whisk until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar, continuing to whisk until the meringue forms stiff peaks. To test: lift the beater out of the meringue and turn upside down. If the meringue peak holds its shape you are done.

3. Divide the meringue evenly between the three circles and, using an offset spatula, form a circular shape with a smooth top.

4. Bake meringues for 40- 45 minutes, or until dry to the touch. If your oven is not big enough to bake all three meringues at the same time or you don’t have a second oven, make a third of the recipe at a time and bake each layer individually. I have two ovens, so I bake two meringue layers in one and the third layer in the second oven. I keep a close eye on the oven with the two meringues: if they are not cooking evenly, I swap the shelves.

5. When they are done, remove the meringues from oven and cool completely on cooling racks.

Directions for Assembling

1. Very gently lift one meringue layer off of the parchment paper and place on a flat serving plate. Top with one-third the whipped cream, and sprinkle with one-third the fruit.

2. Repeat for second layer.

3. For the top layer, again gently lift the third meringue off of the parchment paper and place on the cake, cover with the last of the whipped cream and the last of the fruit. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* It’s a bit of a needle in a haystack, but it’s so worth it: Darina Allen’a lemon curd recipe here.

** I worship at the feet of Yotam Ottolenghi’s meringues. Here is his devine recipe!




Fresh Basil Pesto Recipe

My kitchen looks like a bomb hit it this morning! For some reason I got up and started baking and cooking with abandon. Truth is, I don’t even mind the mess…it’s been lovely to work away in the kitchen. 😉

When I was rooting through the fridge, pulling out ingredients, I noticed I had a few packets of basil sitting in the crisper. Not wanting them to go to waste, I decided to make homemade basil pesto. Summer is, after all, only just around the corner and this basil recipe is so incredibly delicious over chicken or with pasta or even swirled into soup {especially my Tomato and Irish Whiskey soup}.

This pesto is herby, nutty, and has just the right amount of garlic flavour. It can be whipped up in the same amount of time it takes you to boil a pot of pasta {Can I get a “Mama Mia!?”} and you can double the recipe and put some away in the deep freeze. Enjoy!


Fresh Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 cup


44g/2 cups basil leaves

16oz/44g/2-handfuls pine nuts

4g/2-handfuls freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic, peeled

9 tablespoons olive oil

sea salt and pepper to taste


1. Put the basil, pine nuts, Parmesan and garlic in a food processor or Vitamix {if you like your pesto silky smooth}.

2. Pour over 5 tablespoons olive oil and pulse in the food processor or mix on low in the Vitamix.

3. Drizzle in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil.

4. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and add more pine nuts, garlic, or Parmesan until you are happy with the flavour. Add more olive oil if you prefer a runnier consistency.


5. If not using immediately, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle some olive oil over top or pour into a freezer bag, lay flat in your freezer, and use as needed.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* From the folks over at thekitchn.com, another idea for freezing homemade pesto

** If you’re interested in the history of pesto sauce, you can learn oodles here at thesplendidrecipes.com or here at saveur.com.

*** You can find tips for growing basil in the kitchen at thekitchn.com.



Easy Roast Chicken Recipe

Who doesn’t love a roast chicken…am I right? Crispy, salty skin over tender, juicy meat. The aroma of home cooking wafting through the house. Tasty leftovers to use all week in sandwiches, soups, pastas and more.

Mastering a delicious roast chicken is not an art …it’s really too simple for that…which is one of the many reasons why I call this recipe Lazy Roast Chicken. It’s so easy to make you’re going to feel positively lazy!

This recipe literally takes no effort whatsoever and has only four ingredients…salt and pepper being two of them. You don’t have to lift the skin off the breast for butter or herbs. You don’t have to put a lemon or garlic into its cavity. You don’t have to tie up the legs with twine, tuck the wing tips under the body {which I still haven’t figured out how to do well}, and you don’t even have to baste the darn thing.

All you do is pre-heat the pan, rub the chicken body with olive oil, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, pop it into the oven and you’re done. Once it’s in the oven, you are free to dilly dally, goof off, or just hang out.*

Roast Chicken in Oven Proof Frying Pan

And, when it’s done, you’ll notice that the chicken legs are slightly splayed {now doesn’t IT look lazy?}, the crispy skin is a gorgeous caramel colour, and the meat is juicy and delicious. I love to make this dish on a Sunday and use the leftovers in lots of different dishes throughout the week. Enjoy!


Lazy Roast Chicken

Serves 4-6


1 fresh whole chicken, approximately 4 pounds, free range or organic if possible

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


1. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before you want to cook it, to allow it to come up to room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 220ºC/450ºF and adjust the oven rack to the middle of the oven. Place a 12-inch oven safe frying pan on the rack and close the oven door.

3. Unwrap the chicken, remove the neck or giblets inside the cavity, if they are there, and pat dry the chicken with kitchen roll.**

4. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and season well with sea salt and black pepper, then rub it in well over the entire bird with your hands.

5. Carefully, set the chicken in the preheated oven safe frying pan in the oven, breast-side up. Roast 30 minutes and then check that the thickest part of the chicken breast registers 48ºC/120ºF on an instant-read thermometer.

6. Once it does, turn off the oven and leave the chicken in the oven until the breasts register 74ºC/165ºF {about 30 minutes}. If you don’t have a thermometer, a visual clue is that all the juices that come from the chicken should run clear and not be pink.

7. Transfer the chicken to a carving board, cover with aluminium, and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Carve and serve with the juices from the pan.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* {all synonyms for “lazy”!}.

** Here’s a quick Q & A in Poultry Care:

Q. Do I need to rinse my bird when I get it home?

A. The advice not to wash a chickens is longstanding as food safety experts widely agree it raises the risk of spreading dangerous bacteria found on raw poultry all over the kitchen.

Q. Is raw poultry as dangerous as people say?

A. It’s always better to be safe than sorry…so, after working with raw chicken, turkey or other birds, always clean your cutting board, knife, sink, counter, hands or whatever has come in contact with the poultry well with hot soapy water. Then dry it well and, for safe measure, wipe down with a disinfecting wipe.

Q. What are those little white feather bits stuck in the skin and should I remove them?

A. The little “white feather bits” are called “pin feathers” and yes you should remove them. I’ve heard of people using a blow torch to fry the little suckers…but a good pair of kitchen tweezers should do the trick.

*** Supposedly, the purpose of trussing a bird is to keep the splayed legs from burning. But, in all my years of roasting a chicken or a turkey, I have never seen an untrussed chicken or turkey burn or cook unevenly.

**** If your oven has a convection setting, use it. Your oven will be more evenly heated throughout. The drawback is that you’ll need to reduce the temperature stated for the recipe a wee bit. This can take a bit of experimentation, as all ovens are different. If a recipe calls for 220ºC/425ºF, I will typically drop the temperature down to 200ºC/400ºF.

***** Here are two video links to see how the experts check if their chicken is fully cooked without using a digital thermometer: BBCgoodfood.com and Food52.com.


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